Terrible GPA, high MCAT: how to spend my year before applying to SMPs?

Apr 1, 2010
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I am 25, US/EU citizen, female. I graduated May 2009 with a degree in biochemistry and cell biology from a top 20 research university. My GPA is about as bad as it gets, and I got low grades in my science courses, mostly because I didn't take school seriously enough – for example, I didn't show up to any of my organic chemistry lectures or exams the first time around, and skipped two out of four exams the second time, but got As on the last two exams and the final. I never turned in any homework in physics or chemistry, because I knew I'd still pass by earning As on the finals. I realize that this attitude won't get me into or through medical school, but that is not what my question is about.

I had completely given up on medical school due to my low GPA, but then I found out about GPA enhancement/special master's programs! So, here is my current situation – I would greatly appreciate any advice as I am pretty new to this.

Undergraduate history:
3.03 cGPA with bad science grades
Chem I C+, Chem II B+, Bio I B-, Bio II A-, Phys I B-, Phys II C+, Orgo I C+, Orgo II F/B-. I did better in my (many) lab and research courses, as well as Immunology, Genetics, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics, etc. I earned a C+ in Cell bio.
Two years of undergraduate research experience (I secured my own funding and was in the lab upward of 35 hours a week)

Currently:
Employed as a research associate in a hospital-affiliated research institute
Hospital volunteer (with direct patient contact) - just started
Tutor for youth at risk - about a year
As of next month, I will have completed a Certified Nursing Assistant program and will be looking for a clinical part-time job this summer. I will do my best to be placed in a hospital setting – I plan to call up HR at work and ask for internal opportunities.
MCAT full-length practice scores: 40 and 42.
GRE scores: 800Q/730V

I will be applying to GPA enhancement/SMP programs for Fall 2011. Until then, I have the following options:

- Drop to working part-time, take a OChem "short program" over the summer quarter
- Drop to working part-time or quit my current job, attempt to enroll in a full chemistry (it's sometimes hard to get into those classes as a non-matriculated student), physics, and organic chemistry sequence (Summer 2010/Fall 2010/Winter 2011) that I'll have completed early next year
- Take Human Anatomy and Physiology over the summer and as many other somewhat relevant courses I can between now and next fall to bring up my GPA
- Keep working full-time in addition to a part-time job as a nursing assistant

I can take some of these courses at community colleges, or can try enrolling in University of Washington, Seattle University or Seattle Pacific University. Registering for courses beyond Summer 2010 is going to be difficult at the better schools.

I will be getting As in all the courses I take and whatever special master's program admits me next year (if I don't get in, I'll give up on my med school ambitions).

I have discussed dropping to part-time with my boss, so that won't be a problem. Money is currently not an issue, but I am geographically restricted in regard to which SMPs I will be considering: New York City (or vicinity, Newark works), Chicago, Seattle (there are no programs here), Boulder, CO and Atlanta, GA (not aware of any programs there), as well as the Bay Area (but I don't really want to move there).

So, which of these plans should I work on this summer to maximize my chances of getting into the SMP and med school? Thank you so much.
 

drizzt3117

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Oct 29, 2006
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High practice Mcat scores aren't high mcat scores. The mcat forum is full of people with 39+ practice Mcat that got low 30s on the real thing.

Evaluate where you stand when you have score report in hand.
 
Apr 1, 2010
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Of course – but I don't plan to sit for the MCAT until this fall as that will give me several more months to study for it. The question is what I should be doing in the meantime, assuming that my MCAT score won't be an issue as I generally tend to do well on standardized tests. Suffice it to say that I will be looking into other career options if I don't score well on the actual exam.
 
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DrMidlife

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Can you take a full load this summer? Look at the courses offered at UW - you can at least find the prereqs offered, and possibly some upper div like genetics (Genome 371). Summer is open enrollment. Lots of offerings, some accelerated sequences. Registration starts soon and the prereqs are always competitive, so get going.

I doubt there is anything you can take at SeattleU or SPU this summer that has a clear advantage over UW. I'd be very surprised if there's any upper div science offered at either school in the summer. (Also look at UPS & PLU in Tacoma.)

After summer, if you're staying in Seattle, I'd say the best you can do is to take one or two courses per quarter, preferably upper div science. If you want to take classes at UW, assume that you'll need to spend the first two weeks of the quarter doing the non-matric squat, with no guarantee you'll get a seat for your efforts. UW has a premed ochem sequence in the evening, which I would recommend over doing accelerated in the summer, plus it's easier to get a seat. I think the same is true of physics. If you PM me, I can show you how to figure out which classes are easier/harder to get into as a nonmatric. For example, there's zero chance you'll get into Genome 371 during the regular school year, but you can usually get into Immun 441 fall quarter.

You'll want to be ready to apply to SMPs by October, to be first in line. (See the postbac forum for a list of SMPs - but I think you hit the main spots already.) This means you should start working on your personal statement and faculty recommendations NOW.

With an SMP, you should NOT assume you'll have time to work. If working is part of your location plan, it's not a great plan.

Best of luck to you.
 

mooshika

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Jan 13, 2010
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You test well! You are very lucky.

good luck!
 
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kia ora

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I doubt there is anything you can take at SeattleU or SPU this summer that has a clear advantage over UW. I'd be very surprised if there's any upper div science offered at either school in the summer.
SU offers gen chem over the summer (I think, but am not sure, that you can take two of the three gen chem series classes during summer). you for sure can take o-chem at SU during summer (the entire series crammed into 8 or so weeks...well, all but the last few o-chem topics, and they let you sit on on the classes in spring if you want to). I know people who took the summer gen chem and they said it was fine; people who've taken summer o-chem were nothing short of miserable, because of the pace and intensity of the classes/labs. but as for o-chem, I cannot recommend highly enough the regular (academic year) o-chem series at SU. the guys who teach it are AMAZING teachers